As a relatively young Alabama fan I have spent most of life hearing stories of how great Alabama use to be and how great those times were. Sure, I was alive in 1992 but at 10 years old (now 31) the memories of that season are fleeting. Sadly, most of my strongest 'Bama memories come from 1999-2005 (yikes). So, though I'm sure this current unprecedented streak in 'Bama football history is special to us all, to those of us who weren't fortunate enough to live through the Bryant years, it means so much more; We are finally able to be a part of 'Bama history in the making. We will be the ones telling our grandkids about Julio Jones, AJ McCarron (no periods), Dareus' spin move, Trent Richardson and the poor kid from Ole Miss. The Drive, The Catch, The Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowl. The Re-match and making Tebow cry.
Many 'Bama fans point to the 2008 season, and The Black Out in particular, as the beginning of Saban's climb to the Mountain Top of college football but I believe it started a year earlier against Arkansas.
2007 had to be one of the most anticipated seasons in recent memory. After finishing 6-7 in 2006, Shula was gone and this guy Nick Saban was our new coach. (Side note- the 2006 recruiting class was actually ranked #11 in the country; just one slot behind Saban's #10 class in 2007.) I don't remember the exact expectations surrounding the season but there was a sense of hope in the air. I do remember being excited about football again. Honestly, down deep inside I think we ('Bama fans) just wanted to be competitive again and a win against Auburn would be a welcomed sight. Seriously, not even the biggest gump could have dreamed what would come to pass over the next 5 years.
After a thorough beating of mighty Western Carolina to open the season, #16 Arkansas came to Tuscaloosa looking to take back to back against the Tide. Just to be clear, I really don't want to discuss what happened in 2006, 'aight.
'Bama came out on fire and built a 21-0 1st quarter lead but by half-time the lead had been chopped to 21-10. The Tide once again built a 21 point lead by the end of the 3rd but it wasn't to last. Arkansas would score 21 in the 4th to take a 38-34 lead with 2:47 left in the game.
Take a minute, without the foreknowledge of what would come, and try to think back to how you felt at this point. 'Bama had just blown back to back 21 point leads...The defense was gassed and Arkansas had the ball. We couldn't stop the run. Did you think we could get a stop? Did you believe this team had it in them to pull out a win? To be completely honest, I didn't. Hate to say it but what had we been shown to give us a different belief? What win could we look back on and say "Remember when we did that? It's crazy to say that now, knowing what Saban has done but back then?
What transpired was nothing short of a miracle (at least in football terms). Arkansas had accumulated almost 300 rushing yards, 195 by McFadden alone, and was a first down away from a win. BTW, when was the last time a team rushed for 300 yards against Alabama?
10 yards and it's probably over. To be honest, at first, Arkansas actually handles the situation correctly. On 1st down, with McFadden sidelined with cramps, Nutt runs Felix Jones to the left for negative 2 yards. Not a bad play call which forces Alabama to use one of its two remaining timeouts. On 2nd down Michael Smith runs to the right for no gain. Again, not a bad call and Alabama uses its final timeout leaving about 2:30 on the clock. On 3rd down however Arkansas pulls a Nutt..
Instead of running up the gut, draining at least 30-40 seconds off the clock which would have forced 'Bama to likely drive the length of the field, with no time outs and only 1 minute on the clock, they instead roll Casey Dick out to the right and attempt a pass which falls incomplete..
Two things of note: 1) Great effort by Knight but the coverage by Simeon Castille was tight and even if Knight hadn't batted the pass down it was likely to be incomplete, if not intercepted. 2) The route by the Arkansas WR was 4 yards shy of the 1st down. Just a dumb call all around..
So here we are. 2:13 left. No time outs. A Field Goal is no good. John Parker Wilson is our quarterback :/
So, where were you when Matt Caddell picked that hail mary'ish looking pass out of the Tuscaloosa night sky? Don't try and tell me you weren't thinking "WHAT YOU ARE DOING?!" Were you fortunate enough to be at the game? I was sitting in my living room trying to ignore the "We are going to lose" comments by my sister (and in my own head). Can't blame her really. While she attended the Capstone Freddie Kitchens was our quarterback.
Many of us remember that play like it was yesterday but we forget the stop by the defense that allowed it to happen. We forget how it feels to be unranked, at home, praying for a win. It was these series of plays that gave us hope. Sure, the rest of the season sucked something fierce but we finally had something tangible to cling to. Even after the ULM loss or extending the streak to Auburn we had a game that we could say, "Remember when we did that?" We no longer had to try and convince ourselves. Saban talked of the process and we believed him. And that trust was paid back with two SEC Championships, one Heisman winner, and THREE Undisputed National Championships in 4 years..
Now, is there a game you think Alabama can't win? Is there a team 'Bama can't beat? Is there a situation where you think we won't make the stop? Get the first down? Lets remember that the next time we are down in the 4th quarter or if some freshman QB is playing the game of his life. Lets remember "6-7" the next time we complain about the offense "struggling". "Oh no! A running back gained 100 yards on us!" Well, Darren McFadden took us for 195.
"Remember the past with gratitude, live the present with enthusiasm and look to the future with confidence."